Thursday, November 8, 2007

Christianity and other belief systems?

Ok, so I’ve written a lot in the other post today, so I’ll try to keep this short so other people can get their ideas in.

So, the question has come up (ala Sbowe and John) about what the deal is with Christians’ views of other religions. Where we grow up obviously has something to do with our beliefs (though I’d include atheistic beliefs there—the Enlightenment didn’t take root and grow up in the East, or the Mid-East, or Africa, but first and foremost in Europe... which was mostly Christian at the time…), so how can Christians reconcile with that? Would Christians have the same views of Jesus if they had grown up in another religious culture?

Anyhow, like I said, I’ve written a lot, so I think I’ll let someone else start this one (maybe John or Sbowe would like to explain their points/questions better than I did?), but I definitely want to get into it—I’ve done a lot of thinking about this in my life, and I don’t think it’s a fatal problem for Christianity. Ach, that’s really enough from me for now—talk to you all soon!

Peace!
Ishmael

17 comments:

kmprosen said...

I want to clarify before I begin my post--

Are we talking about the validity of other religions in the eyes of Christianity, or the repercussions of other faiths on salvation? For me, the two are absolutely intertwined, but I don't want to go off on a long post if they aren't for everyone.

Cheers,
Kelly

John Kamman said...

Kelly, I’d say call it as you see it. If they are intertwined, let them be so. (I realize this is Ishmael’s post, just my two cents)

Clarification of points/questions:
Ishmael, in a previous comment you said, “The Resurrection however, is consistently held by New Testament authors to be a FACT—it actually happened”. Let me make two quick presumptions (correct me if I am wrong): 1. you and most other Christian scholars also hold this to be fact. 2. Most people of other faiths would not hold this as fact. Likewise, many of them would hold historical facts that you would not accept (see my previous multiple “virgin births” argument throughout history). Some of these “facts”, and some of these people (or all) are simply wrong. I acknowledge that one could argue that atheists are wrong in believing the “fact” that the resurrection is a myth. (the previous “evidence” discussion fits in here).

My argument/question: Facts do not vary with space and time. If we base our worldview, morals, and policies upon weakly-supported, indoctrinated “facts” that are not “facts” elsewhere, we arrive at the catastrophically dangerous “God says” dogmatic reasoning that has caused and is causing so much violence and destruction throughout the world when unsupportable “facts” collide. Islamic Jihadists, Christian Saints, Ghandi, Crusaders, Pagan “witches”, suicidal cults, Mother Theresa…etc all followed “god-assigned” dogmatic worldviews that differed dramatically (some we condemn some we condone). 2 questions:

1. How can you reconcile these differences and still arrive at Christianity?
2. It may seem off topic, but I don't believe so: If Plato, Aristotle, Socrates (or any other great B.C. thinker) were (without indoctrination) given access to the Koran, the bhagavad gita, the Sutras, the Bible, all pertinent subsequent religious documents and a stack of modern science texts, would (and should they) they arrive at Christianity as fact and truth?

Fitch said...

Sweet baby Jesus, y'all post a lot! I don't have much time, so this is just going to be a brief response to some of the things I was tangled in with other posts (but thought it may get lost if I commented on another thread).

1) In a response to John's question regarding my metaphysical beliefs: I've always (or at least in the last 6 years or so) been agnostic when it comes to some sort of metaphysical claims regarding the existence of god (which I think every person, to some degree, must be agnostic, because we just flat out don't know). However, my hunch leans toward an atheistic interpretation of existence, but this is only in juxtaposition to conventional interpretations of what god is or ought to be. Given this position, I usually end up arguing strict atheism, but that's just because doing so requires less prefacing.

2) The definition of "reason" we've been using has changed from post to post. "Reason" is a social construction that equates closely with precision (at least in the physical sciences). Could it ever yield a metaphysical truth? No. None of our intellectual tools can because, as Audre Lorde once put it, you can't use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house (granted, she was speaking of gender/race/sexuality, but I think it connects well with what we're discussing). I think we should set out some standard definitions/references so we're all on the same page, because some of these comments are like two ships passing in the night. Or, we could toss out the word completely because it has so much baggage (Rorty argues this point well).

3) John, the "First Mover" thesis is interesting and has been quite lasting ('twas Aristotle that articulated it best in his Metaphysics). However, Kant also addressed the paradox we have with time (which is tied closely to existence/creation). If time/existence starts with this unmoved mover, we always ask ourselves, "Well, what was before that, because there must be SOMETHING going on before the start of it all." Likewise, when we push this point, we cannot comprehend an infinite existence because that would mean everything has not only happened an infinite amount of times, but will happen an infinite amount of times in the future. I don't know about you, but that blows my mind (and I find it strikingly true).

4) I'm still fascinated with the free will debate, although it is ultimately a moot point because no matter what happens in the debate, we are still going to go on as if we have free will (soft determinism). However, I've heard of quantum physics stuff noting the randomness of certain particles or whathaveyou. Determinists will say, "We just don't have all the information, but if we did then we could determine everything." That's an impossible position to argue against. My biggest concern regarding this position is that if we are able to predict where every molecule has been and is going, this "snapshot" can be strayed from, no? Dennett offers some interesting stuff on this debate, but I bet he still feels like he needs to muster the will to roll out of bed when his alarm sounds in the morning.

5) This is more housekeeping: I suggest we have weekly topics and just reply to one thread per week, as trying to follow all of these different discussion, especially when I only check this a couple times a week, his quite confusing. That way we can more fully address a specific topic without have attention drawn to different, although compelling, issues.

6) Maybe we could suggest a reading to discuss, which would give us some more focus? Nothing long, mind you, but I know people a lot smarter than me have tackled these ideas, and having a starting point may foster more productive conversation?

7) Although I am a staunch atheist, I have been listening to Christmas music since last Friday.

kmprosen said...

Weeee! A meandering post!

John—

Addressing your second question, I think that you’re being much too black-and-white here. I wouldn’t say, and I’m reasonably confident that Ishmael would agree with me (?) that Christianity cannot be the end-all of religious inquiry, just as I would argue that science doesn’t have it all together either.

I would agree with some of what was said earlier about circumstances of socio-economic and cultural situations affecting an individual’s path toward the Divine. As Grace said earlier, Christianity (specifically for me, Roman Catholicism) is the best way in which the Divine communicates itself to me. This doesn’t discount the validity of other practicing faiths, or of science for that matter.

One of my favorite writers ever talks about the relationship among religions by writing: “God communicates himself to man in his own proper reality. That is the mystery and the fullness of grace” ( Theological Investigations IV 175). He admits that Christianity may not be “[T]he Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) for everyone. Ergo, there must be validity to non-Christian traditions, because the idea of God communicating Godself to each person in their “own proper reality” and then only selecting those who “got it” through Christianity (Or Islam, or Judaism, etc).

If we accept the postulate that God is communicated to each person in their own reality, it becomes all the more urgent to have conversations not only among the “faithful” but among our atheist/agnostic friends as well. I think that we necessarily have things to contribute to one another. I think that your 2nd question excludes the thought that we have things to contribute to one another.

Ok. . .I'm going to stop blathering and sign off.

Cheers,
Kelly

John Kamman said...

Kelly, I like your stance, It makes religion easier to swallow.
Question, though: How do we deal with religions "we don't like". Radical Islam, Suicidal Cults, Misguided Christians...etc Is this God revealing himself. I've been drinking, ignore this post

Ishmael said...

Hey all! I suppose I posted this thread, so I should maybe say something. Basically, here’s the gist of what I’m going to say: Kelly, I agree with you.

I think Rahner’s argument (Kelly’s favorite author, of course) is the most consistent of any I’ve ever read. Basically, as Christians, we believe in a God who is love, and love is self-communicating (therefore, the incarnation). And if we are really to take this seriously, Christians need to reckon with the fact that it’s possible for God to have revealed Godself to people OUTSIDE the specific tradition of Christianity. This should not be a faith-shaking affirmation—I think it follows necessarily from who we confess God to be.

That being said, what do we do with the millions of people who would disagree with Kelly and me (“Radical Islam, Suicidal Cults, Misguided Christians…”)? First, let’s be realistically humble about this: this really is far too large a question for me (or even us) to claim to be able to answer exhaustively, definitively, or maybe even adequately. I can offer my viewpoint, but that’s really about it.

Let’s start with the Christians, since that’s the group I’m most familiar with. The vast majority of times when I have talked with Christians who are of more extreme opinions, their method of arguing has been to grab hold of one or a few pieces of the Christian story, and make them the ultimate measure by which all other aspects of the Christian story are tried. For example, against the argument above (God as self-communicating love, so God may in some way reveal Godself in other religions) many would argue that because of the uniqueness of the incarnation, no other religions may be ways for God to reach people. The problem with this view is that it takes one point of the Christian story (even perhaps the most important point—the incarnation) outside the context of the story itself. I guess my argument against this would basically be to “look at the big picture!” If one’s view of one point of Christianity is irreconcilable with the rest of the story, that view, even if not rejected, should certainly be brought into question.

Now, again, I don’t have any illusions here. How do I know that my view of Christianity gets the whole story straight? The simple answer is, I don’t. I have a view of the Christian story, and I hold that view because it’s stood up to the tests it’s come into contact with. However, if I see that that view is irreconcilably inconsistent with my reason and experience, like I said in an earlier comment, my view would have to change. The thing is, many Christians I have spoken with are unwilling to entertain questions in this way. They have too many answers (like “Christianity is the only way God may reveal HIMself”), and so questions are the devil’s work.

I think this may contribute to many aspects of the religions “we don’t like.” It’s not that one religious view is as good as another. It’s rather (I think) that some views are secure and consistent enough to engage in questions, and some are instead fearful of inquiry. Anyhow, that’s my initial take on the issue (though of course, it’s open to change…).

P.S. One quick and unrelated (and probably trivial) point. John, as far as I know, there is no binding Christian teaching that Jesus was the only person ever born of a virgin. The only teaching we have spelled out about Jesus’ uniqueness was that he was true God and true man (though, of course, I’m not any sort of authority on the Christian faith).

Peace!
Ishmael

John Kamman said...

Kelly & Ishmael, I hope you don’t mind if I poke at your responses a bit. I’ll try to be concise, but I tend to be failing immensely in that regard.

First: Kelly stated that I was being unfair in the “Aristotle, Plato, Socrates” question that I posted. I don’t feel I was. I was getting at a deeper question that concerns the contradiction of “facts”. I’d like to hear what you both think of my, somewhat pointed question, of how Christianity (or any religion for that matter) can reconcile historical contradictions between religions? We’ve come at this from a few angles and I don’t feel that it’s been fully addressed from the Christian perspective. Religions, we have admitted, are based in part on fact. Facts vary between religions, implying that some people have a religion based on falsities. You’ve stated that God reveals himself in different ways to different people… does He do so through historical inaccuracies? That would seem very odd to me. “God works in mysterious ways.” Indeed.

Second: I may be entirely mistaken in this analysis of modern religion, but here goes…. Fundamental uber-conservative-literally-translating Christians are, to me, so wrong it’s not even worth debating. Thoughtful liberal-minded Christians (such as Ishmael and Kelly) command my respect. To me, however, it seems that you earn this respect through a starting at a philosophical and scientific secular approach to the world (bare with me for a second). You arrive at morality through reason rather than “God says” dogma; you discard scientifically and historically inaccurate scripture as not “fact”; you acknowledge the, at least partial, legitimacy of other religions. Then, after admirably coming to these conclusions, you make scripture and doctrine fit your secular worldview. It seems very much, to me, like a square peg in a round hole. The “pick & choose” approach I’ve referred to is simply sanding that square peg down so it fits in the round hole. So, Applying this to our current thread: How should we view other religions? Your answer seems to be… “well, If they are of a different religion, no problem, as long as they sand their peg (whatever shape it may be) down to fit in our circular hole” (ie no problem as long as their beliefs can fit into my worldview without major contradiction).

Third, Ishmael made the following comment about Christians with views that contradict his own: “their method of arguing has been to grab hold of one or a few pieces of the Christian story”. I would argue the following in response: In a sense, this “grab hold of one or a few pieces” is exactly what most of Christianity is. I think it’s safe to say that Christianity now hardly resembles Christianity of 700 years ago, or even 200 years. The “sanding of the peg” approach has been happening for centuries. As the worldview would change, so would Christianity. A friend pointed out that it is often preached that one should not be a “buffet Christian” picking and choosing which parts to obey and which parts to ignore…. yet that is exactly what the foundation of the religion is. Which books are included in the bible as “holy”? Pick & Choose. Which lines from those books should we interpret as fact or truth? Pick & Choose. How should we interpret these truths and facts? Pick and Choose. It seems to me, that the radicals within a given religion are the one’s that actually approach the scripture and teachings without picking and choosing and instead, accept all of it as holy, true and factual. Instead of shaping their religion to their worldview, they shape their worldview to their religion….dangerous


After reading through this, I realize it comes across as a bit smug. I know we all keep apologizing back and forth, but I hope you do realize that I absolutely do not mean to be disrespectful.

kmprosen said...

John,

Are you trying to say that Christians who allow their worldview to inform their faith are simply co-opting out of their underlying secularist beliefs?

Cheers,
Kelly

John Kamman said...

If I understand your question correctly, yes. I’m not asking for agreement, but I’m saying that from my perspective, most non-radical Chrstians have a faith that is shaped around their (largely secular) worldview. Radical Christians have a worldview shaped around their faith. I wouldn’t argue that these are universal. I’m sure that your worldview has also been affected by your faith, but the criteria on which you “pick & choose” appeals to your secular worldview, your reason, and your life experience.

This fits well with shane’s argument of building “impervious” beliefs. Ishmael said he would question his beliefs only if: “I came to the conclusion that my reason and life experience were irreconcilably inconsistent with my christian faith”. This will conveniently never be the case as long your faith is shaped by your reason and your life experience.

kmprosen said...

John,

I feel like you and I are talking past one another on this one. It seems to me as if you hold that Fundamentalists aren’t “even worth debating” but somehow those of us who are actively trying to reconcile science and philosophy to our faith lives are somehow insincere in one or the other. If I really understand you correctly, my first inclination is to become a towering inferno of rage. I’m trying to suppress this and be reasonable throughout the post.

It seems as though you’re not going to be satisfied until all of us who believe in God throw up our hands and say “Oh! I’ve been such an idiot this entire time. Clearly God has just been a Delusion and all of my personal experience has been either a hallucination or me being too afraid to face the grim reality of my own mortality.”

If that’s truly what you would encourage, then it strikes me that you’re being not only condescending, but also a little naïve. You and I have talked privately about humans evolving a need to believe in the Divine in order to answer not the “how” questions of our existence, but the “why” questions as well. Now, supposing for a moment that I’m willing to concede that point. You’ve painted yourself in to a corner by saying that Fundamentalists are, essentially, not worth arguing with and then saying that the rest of us are insincere. Whether you like it or not, faith has a very real place in the world, and isolating yourself from all of the faithful by suggesting insincerity or stupidity is incredibly patronizing and smug.

As far as your comments about allowing my secular viewpoint to shape my faith, you’re missing my meaning. I let any science that I understand (which is little, I’ll grant you that much) illuminate what I understand about my faith life and vice-versa, because. . .

FAITH TRADITIONS MUST EVOLVE AS NEW SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE COMES TO LIGHT. I honestly cannot stress that enough. Faith cannot exist in a vacuum and it’s irresponsible to allow it to do so. I know that I keep beating this issue to death, but revelation was incomplete and came through the human who is, by nature (as far as major religious traditions are concerned) IMPERFECT. Because of this, science necessarily illuminates what we already know in our faith lives through revelation.

As far as your comments about Ishmael’s conclusion about his beliefs, I find it interesting that you’re willing to criticize that viewpoint when, conveniently enough, Dawkins takes the exact same viewpoint. He does this through a series of semantic backflips, but when he says that he’s willing to believe in metaphysical being who can be proven empirically, he’s saying the exact same thing. You cannot prove a metaphysical reality empirically, and Dawkins (being the intellectual giant that he is) has to realize this. What’s sauce for the gander must be sauce for the goose, my friend.

I also don’t feel that I’m sanding religion down to fit my secular hole. (Can we pause to appreciate the hilarity of how that sounds?) here’s a real difference between the “cafeteria Christian” to which your friend refers and those of us who are trying to understand our lives within our current socio-historical context. Catholics are actually called to try to look at their faith as critically as humanly possible and not just follow along with it blindly. Surprise! If I were really “sanding down my beliefs” I would argue that the story of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection is really only a story. It defies all modern scientific understanding, and I would dismiss it as a beautiful allegory for God’s love for creation. I don’t. I accept the Resurrection despite all empirical evidence because of personal experience, which I know many who post here find suspect. You may also find it interesting that John Paul II was all about helping science & religion interact with one another.

Phew,655 words later, I'm stopping.

Wee!

Cheers,
Kelly

John Kamman said...

Well, we’ve turned up the heat. :)

Lots to address here, for the sake of staying remotely on topic to address your argument of my assertion of either “insincerety or stupidty”:

The “stupidity” side: Perhaps by saying “so wrong it’s not even worth debating” I phrased it too harshly, but people who argue and spread significant scientific and historical falsities, violence, bigotry, mutilation, and other heinous crimes in the name of god (the fundamental, radical believers) needn’t, in my opinion, be addressed with civility. I don’t feel out of line being condescending in these circumstances.

The insincerity side: I’ll respond with three hopefully illustrative questions: 1. (This will likely never happen, but) if, hypothetically, we found conclusive evidence that the entire resurrection story never actually occurred, would you abandon your faith entirely or would you make it fit the new scientific/historical reality? Would Christianity suddenly disappear? 2. What criteria are used to select the accuracy or inaccuracy of the bible/historical doctrine?(I’m seriously curious… I don’t know the answer to this) 3. Can you think of another religious belief that starkly contradicts your view or morality yet is still “god revealing himself” (also seriously curious)?

Perhaps the only difference is that I view the fact that “faith traditions must evolve as new scientific evidence comes to light” as very compromising to the integrity of the whole. As I’ve said before: Either divine revelation is failing miserably or no immutable will ever existed. Either way, I feel inclined not to subscribe.

I'll be quiet now :)

Ishmael said...

Hey Everyone, sorry I’ve been absent for so long—life has been a bit crazy.

Ok, John, I must admit that like Kelly, I think we’re talking past each other. If I get your drift right, you may say that if a belief system or faith changes in light of new insight, then that compromises its integrity. Am I on track there?

Here’s my problem with that assertion though: the Christian faith I profess does not claim to have articulated the full truth of the way things are once and for all. If it did, it would have done the famous “putting God in a box.” Karl Rahner (again) treats this very nicely in an essay of his; basically, he says that BECAUSE what we hold is true, and because we as humans encounter that truth in changing historical circumstances, our understanding and articulation of that truth will necessarily NOT be static among all places and all times, because that truth transcends historical human understanding. Articulation and understanding of Christianity has never been static, and beyond that, it necessarily isn’t.

Ok, so picking and choosing. I tried to make clear in my earlier comment that this “picking and choosing” is not done flippantly by many Christians and theologians—it’s done as a result of careful study employing all tools of the academy available to those doing it. So to get to your question, what criteria are used? Well, I guess, how long of an answer do you want? People spend entire careers refining the criteria and tools used for interpretation of the bible and doctrine. All the same, here are a few extremely broad generalizations:

Of the Bible: What was the point the author was trying to make? What were its sources? How early is it? Where exactly did it originate? What influences were most likely informing the text? Of Doctrine: Again, what was the point the author was trying to make? Where did it originate and what influences were most likely informing it? Can the historical matrix in which it originated be applied to the context of today?

This may sound like simple picking and choosing, but like Kelly, I think it touches upon arrogance if one dismisses it as only that, without actually doing the work.

Ok, one more point and I’ll shut up. John, earlier you stated that I’m still not being fair with my evaluation of my faith. I’d maintain that I’m not being unfair, I’m simply not playing by the rules that happen to suit you best, which I’d say are shaped just as much by your stance as my rules are by mine. I am not (contrary to what you suggested earlier) starting from a secular viewpoint and sanding my faith down to fit within it. Rather, I am starting from faith and allowing all the wonderful advances of the modern world to inform it. To employ Anselm’s quote, it’s “fides querens intellectum,” faith seeking understanding. Now, before anyone says that that is not a valid method, please realize that an atheist/agnostic begins to evaluate faith in much the same way. He or she of necessity starts from whatever worldview he or she holds, and either allows that to be informed by faith claims or rejects them. I’d share Kelly’s indignance if we are said to be unreasonable simply because we do not subscribe outright to the methodology of a conflicting view.

Anyway, I’d like to write more, but I guess I’ll leave it at that for now. Peace!
Ishmael

John Kamman said...

Yo. Sorry, I too have been absent. Happy Turkey day, all. Sorry if I seemed to be in a cynical mood recently… it’s because I was. Sorry. Clarifying points of conflict are important to all around, I think. I appreciate your responses. I know that people are being as straightforward as possible, but before I comment further, I have a few quick questions, the answers to which I haven’t fully grasped:

1. As asked previously: Religions, we have admitted, are based in part on fact. Facts vary between religions, implying that some people have a religion based on falsities. How can you reconcile this problem without some having their facts “wrong”?

2. Are you disagreeing with my statement that the criteria on which you “pick and choose”(or interpret) is largely secular (historical and scientific context)? Or are you saying that a secular-based criteria is perfectly acceptable and necessary? I seem to be hearing a bit of both responses.

3. Somewhat the same as question 2: The scientifically and historically disprovable aspects of Christianity have been disposed of and omitted. Good or bad, this is “sanding down” to fit a secular worldview - an analogy that provokes “towering inferno(s) of rage”; Why? Weeding Eden with a secular trowel? Is that a better anology?

Ishmael said...

Hey Everyone, forgive me if this gets long, but I figured that the best way to respond to John might be just to see if I can give an answer to his questions (admitting that I am in no way qualified to answer them definitively).

So John, about your first question. I hate to keep bringing this up, but I’m still not sure we’re speaking the same language about truth and facts. Be that as it may, I’ll try to respond in the way I understand. When you say that “facts vary between religions,” I don’t know that we can take that as a given. Facts as a rule don’t vary. Beliefs in which facts ARE such do. So I guess the question becomes, which claims to facts in other religions must Christians deny, and vice versa?

I must admit that I’m not sure that list is very long. For example, must a Jew necessarily deny the fact that Jesus rose from the dead? I don’t think so—even the Jewish story has miraculous stories about deaths. They would deny the truth that Christians see in Christ’s resurrection, upon which the rest of the Christian faith is based. Or perhaps another example: must Christians deny that Mohammed experienced something supernatural upon which he based the Koran? I don’t think so. I think we deny the absolute truth of the Koran, but that’s a belief/truth distinction, not a fact/knowledge one. Basically, I’m either too dense or too slow to know exactly what you want for an answer to your question. Maybe you could expand on it a bit, and I can try to respond again?

Peace!
Ishmael

Ishmael said...

Ok, so John’s second question (and I suppose his third also). In short, yes, I think I’d disagree with your statement that the criteria by which we interpret our (maybe I should stick to MY—I don’t want to speak for anyone unwarrantedly) faith is largely secular. I don’t disagree absolutely, but I’d say it differently—which I’m afraid in this case is not simply semantics. The way I interpret my faith is necessarily informed by the modern secular situation, since I am at least in part a product of that situation. However, I think the starting point is important here. I’m beginning from a standpoint of faith, and employing secular methodologies to inform both my faith and my faith’s methodologies. It’s not a 1:1 replacement, it’s rather a sort of conversation, if that makes sense?

So I guess on to your third question. I don’t think I’d grant you the statement that “the scientifically and historically disprovable aspects of Christianity have been disposed of and omitted.” No. Those aspects I certainly do not see as scientific and historical facts in the strict sense, but the truths to which they point have not been denied in any sense. I think this goes back to a point I made earlier: if we can see the point that the author (of a biblical text) is trying to make, or what the author is attempting to say, that we take as truth.

This is why the Bible is a living text, and this is the point Rahner was trying to make when he said that the continual development of interpretation of the truth is a testament to its trueness. Please don’t take this as defensive; I really am just trying to explain where I’m coming from. I am not sanding down my faith to fit a secular worldview. I am using the riches of that secular worldview to inform my faith. This keeps me in real conversation with my historical context, and allows me to apply my faith to my (historically conditioned) life.

Since its beginnings, this has been the approach of Christianity. Contemporary ways of thinking have always informed the Church, and this keeping of the faith in conversation with contemporary intellectual developments has nearly always been embraced. Augustine and his tradition readily employed what Greek philosophy was at his disposal, and fervently defended his position in doing so. With the (re)discovery of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and his tradition grabbed hold of Aristotle’s insights and explained faith in their terms as much as possible. And there are of course other examples.

So (I think) it is today; we live in an Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment world. We as Christians may indeed use insights given by these systems to inform our faith, without swallowing their systems hook, line, and sinker (and without sanding down our faith to fit those systems). To do so is not intellectual bastardization. It is instead the good and necessary response of a thinking Christian to his or her historical context.

Anyhow, that’s a lot, so I’d better stop. Thanks for giving this some time, and I do look forward to your thoughts!

Peace!
Ishmael

John Kamman said...

1. As for the first question (that of inconsistent “facts”): Ishmael, you are right in saying that it is the beliefs in facts that vary, not the facts themselves. I completely disagree that the list is not long, however. It might be substantially shorter between Judaism, Islam and Christianity, but from what I understand, and I may be mistaken, they are all sects of the same Abrahamic origin. That being said, there are huge differences… differences that stem from supposed facts and truths based upon those facts, differences that are even greater once we leave the Abrahamic world. For example, how many of the following would you credit as being historical fact?

-Dionysus was born from the thigh of Zeus
-Mohammad Ascended to heaven
-The earth was formed 10,000 years ago in the state that it currently is
-The story of Noah’s flood and the subsequent repopulation of the earth is fact-based
-Elephants, Horses and Steel were found native to the New World as explained in The book of Mormon
-The suicidal souls of “Heaven’s Gate” took a ride on a spaceship hidden behind a comet
-Ganesh was born of dirt, decapitated and then the head was replaced with that of an elephant.

These are all, or were all, wholeheartedly believed as fact. Not just poetic truths, or allegories. F-A-C-T. Are the believers of these “facts” wrong, or is God revealing himself through inaccuracies? If they are wrong, should we give them the benefit of the doubt that the extrapolated “truths” are worth noting?

2. I’ll let the secular sanding debate sit here. I don’t think we’ll be very productive taking it much further. But I am still curious, is there any scientific or historical discovery that would make you abandon your faith entirely (ie my previous question: we hypothetically discover the resurrection never happened, Jesus was born of flesh….etc), or would your faith be reshaped to fit the new historical/scientific context? What specifically would make you come “to the conclusion that (your) reason and life experience were irreconcilably inconsistent with (your) christian faith”?

kmprosen said...

John,

I've been avoiding answering your last question for awhile, but I think I'm just going to have to dive in.

I think that if you could prove absolutely that the Resurrection did nothappen my Christianity would go by the wayside, because the whole basis of Christianity is that "God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son among us." At the same time, I wouldn't discard faith entirely. I would simply look for another intersection of the Divine in my everyday existence.

Weeee.